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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Numbers 6



Verse 21



Numbers 6:21. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the Lord for his separation.

THE Nazarites, in the best times of the Jewish state, were eminently pious. God himself declares concerning them, that “they were purer than snow, and whiter than milk [Note: Lamentations 4:7.].” The very order itself was instituted by divine appointment, on purpose that they might be blessings to the nation, and preserve the tone of piety and morals from decay. It was a favour to that people that “God raised up of their sons for prophets;” nor was it less so, that he raised up of their “young men for Nazarites [Note: Amos 2:11.].” Some, as Samson and John the Baptist, were separated by God himself even from their mother’s womb; and the express order was given, that from their very birth they should drink no wine, and that no razor should come upon their head [Note: Judges 13:4-5; Judges 13:7; Judges 13:14; Luke 1:15.]. Others perhaps, like Samuel, might be consecrated by their parents from the womb [Note: 1 Samuel 1:11.]. But, in general, the separation of themselves to be Nazarites was altogether voluntary and for a fixed time. The custom continued even to the apostolic age. St. Paul himself seems to have completed the vow of Nazariteship at Cenchrea [Note: Acts 18:18.]: and when there were four men performing it at Jerusalem, he, in order to remove prejudice from the minds of those who thought him adverse to the law of Moses, united himself with them, bearing part of the charges attendant on that vow, and conforming himself in every thing to the prescribed ritual [Note: Acts 21:23-24.]. The law respecting them is contained in the chapter now before us: and, agreeably to the arrangement made for us in our text, we shall consider it as containing,

I. Their vows—

The particulars of their vow are here minutely detailed:

[They separated themselves for a season to an extraordinary course of attendance upon God. During that season they were not to touch any wine, or grapes either moist or dried. They were not to cut their hair, or to approach any dead body, or to mourn even for a father or a mother [Note: ver. 2–8.]. If, by any unforeseen accident, a person should fall down dead near them, or a corpse be brought nearly into contact with them, they were to shave their head, and offer both a burnt-offering and a sin-offering (to atone for the pollution they had contracted), and were to begin again the term of their separation, the whole that had passed having been rendered null and void [Note: ver. 9–12.].]

The design of it, though not expressly declared in Scripture, yet may without difficulty be ascertained—

[It seems that the order of Nazarites was intended to prefigure Christ, who, though not observant of the laws relating to that order, was from eternity consecrated to the service of his God, not only by the designation of his Father, but by his own voluntary engagement, and completed the course of his obedience till he could say, “It is finished.”

But we have no doubt respecting the design of God to exhibit to us in the Nazarites a pattern for our imitation. The appointment itself has ceased with the law: “the believing Gentiles” are expressly told that they “are not required to observe any such thing [Note: Acts 21:25.].” But, though the form has ceased, the substance remains. We are called to consecrate ourselves unreservedly to God. This is our duty, and our privilege. “We are not our own; we are bought with a price;” and therefore bought, “that we may glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his.” Every one amongst us should subscribe with his hand, and say, “I am the Lord’s [Note: Isaiah 44:5; Romans 14:7-8.]”— — — We need not literally abstain from wine; but we should shew a holy superiority to all the pleasures of sense. We may enjoy them, because “God has given us all things richly to enjoy:” but we should not seek our happiness in them, or be at all enslaved by them; or value them any further, than we can enjoy God in them, and glorify him by them. The same indifference should we manifest also in relation to the cares of this life. We may mourn indeed, but never indulge that “sorrow of the world, which worketh death.” Having God for our portion, the loss of all earthly things should be comparatively but little felt — — — We are not called to that singularity of dress which marked the Nazarites to public view: but surely we are called not to be conformed to every idle fashion, or to be running into all the absurdities which characterize the votaries of this world. A Christian should despise such vanities, and “be no more of this world, than Christ himself was of the world” — — — From pollution of every kind we should stand at the remotest distance: we should “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,” but “be purged from dead works to serve the living God.” What caution, what holy fear should we maintain! What dread of dishonouring our Lord, and walking unworthy of our holy profession! Surely we should “abstain even from the appearance of evil,” and labour to “be pure as God himself is pure” — — — If at any time, through weakness or inadvertence, we contract pollution, we must not think to proceed as if we had done nothing amiss: no; sin, of whatever kind, must be repented of: for, if it be continued in, it will infallibly destroy us [Note: Ezekiel 18:24.]. We must, like the Nazarite, instantly apply ourselves to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and seek remission through his precious blood. Yea, like him too, we must renew our dedication of ourselves to God, just as if we never had been devoted to him before. This is the safest way, and by far the happiest. If we stand doubting and questioning about our former state, it may be long before we come to any comfortable conclusion: but if we leave the consideration of past experiences, or use them only as grounds of deeper humiliation, and devote ourselves to God again as we did at the beginning, we shall most honour the mercy of our God, and most speedily attain renewed tokens of his favour — — —]

At the completion of their vows they were required to present,

II. Their offerings—

These are particularly specified: they consisted of a he-lamb for a burnt-offering, to acknowledge God’s goodness to them; an ewe-lamb for a sin-offering, to obtain mercy at his hands; and a ram for a peace-offering, to shew that they were in a state of favour and acceptance with God. Besides these, they were to offer a basket of unleavened bread, consisting of cakes mingled with oil, and wafers anointed with oil, with a meat-offering and a drink-offering. Of these a greater portion was given to the priest than on other occasions: for, not only the wave-breast and the heave-shoulder were his, but also the other shoulder of the ram, which was sodden or boiled, was added, with one unleavened cake and one unleavened wafer; and, after having been put into the hands of the Nazarite and waved before the Lord, were given to the priest as his portion. The Nazarite’s hair also was shaven, and was burnt in the fire which boiled the peace-offerings. Thus was the termination of their vow publicly made known; and they, released from those particular obligations, were at liberty to resume the enjoyments which during their separation they had voluntarily renounced [Note: ver. 13–20.].

It would not be easy to mark with precision the exact design of these multiplied observances: but from a collective view of them we may gather,

1. That of all that we do, we should give the glory to God—

[This was designed by the burnt-offering, as also by the heave-offering: they were acknowledgments to God, that his goodness to them was great, and that the service which they were enabled to render him had been the fruit of his love, and the gift of his grace. Thus should all our services be viewed. If they be regarded by us as grounds of self-preference and self-complacency, they will be odious to God in proportion as they are admired by us. We should never for a moment forget, that “it is by the grace of God we are what we are.” “It is God who gives us both to will and to do, and that too altogether of his good pleasure.” “Our sufficiency even for a good thought is derived from Him alone.” Instead of imagining therefore that we lay God under obligations to us for any works that we do, we must remember that the more we do for God, the more we are indebted to God — — —]

2. That, after all that we can do, we need an interest in the atoning blood of Christ—

[This was clearly manifested by the sin-offering. The Nazarite’s hair was not burnt on the altar of the burnt-offerings, to make atonement, but with the fire that boiled the peace-offerings, to make acknowledgment. However holy our lives be, even though we were sanctified to God from the very womb, and never contracted such a degree of pollution as should destroy our hope of acceptance with him, yet must we be washed in “the fountain open for sin,” even the fountain of Christ’s blood, which alone “cleanseth from all sin.” There is iniquity cleaving to our holiest things; and an atonement is as necessary for them as for our grossest sins: and that atonement can be found only in the sacrifice of Christ — — —]

3. That when our term of separation is fulfilled, our joys shall be unrestrained for evermore—

[”After that, the Nazarite may drink wine [Note: ver. 20.]:” and, after the short period of mortification and self-denial assigned us here, we shall “enter into the joy of our Lord,” even into “his presence, where there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.” The dread of pollution shall then be past; and the tokens of humiliation be put away. Then shall we “drink new wine in the kingdom of our Father:” and O! how sweet those draughts, of which, in our present state of separation, it was not permitted us to taste! More encouragement than this we need not, we cannot, have. Let us only contemplate “the blessedness of those who die in the Lord,” and we shall need no other inducement to live unto the Lord — — —]


[The term, Nazarite, imports separation: and though, as has been observed before, the ordinances relative to Nazarites are no longer in force, their duties, in a spiritual view, are obligatory on us. St. Paul says, “Come out from among the ungodly, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” You remember too it was observed, that “God raised up young men to be Nazarites.” O that the young amongst us would be foremost in the surrender of themselves to God! How would the world be benefited! how would God be glorified! — — — With respect to females, a vow of theirs, if not allowed by their father or their husband, was made void; so that they could not separate themselves, as Nazarites, without the permission of those who had the control over them [Note: Numbers 30:1-16.]: but there is no such controlling power now, none to prevent a surrender of our souls to God: the answer to any opposing authority must be, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Let nothing then keep us from executing the purposes which God has inspired; but let us, both old and young, “yield up ourselves as living sacrifices unto God, assured that it is no less a reasonable, than it is an acceptable, service” — — —]

Verses 23-27



Numbers 6:23-27. On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.

THE exercise of benevolence is that which every child of God should cultivate to the uttermost: but ministers above all should consider it as the distinguishing badge of their office: they are compelled indeed sometimes to “use sharpness;” but whether they rebuke, or whether they exhort, they should be actuated by nothing but a principle of love. Under the law, it was a very important part of the priestly office to bless the people; and God prescribed a form of words to be used by Aaron and his sons in the discharge of that duty [Note: The circumstance of its being a prescribed form of words, did not render it the less efficacious for the people’s good.]: nor can any words better express the scope and end of the Christian ministry. If the people be brought to receive abundant communications of grace and peace, and to surrender up themselves entirely to God, a minister can desire nothing more in this world; his labours are well repaid. To promote this blessed end, we shall,

I. Explain the words before us—

God is here making known his will to Moses, and directing him what orders to give to Aaron and his sons respecting the execution of their priestly office and there are two duties which he assigns to them;

1. To bless the people in God’s name—

[This was repeatedly declared to be their office [Note: Deuteronomy 21:5.]; and the constant practice of the Apostles shews that it was to be continued under the Christian dispensation. In conformity to their example, the Christian Church has universally retained the custom of closing the service with a pastoral benediction. We are not indeed to suppose that ministers can, by any power or authority of their own, convey a blessing [Note: Acts 3:12.]: they can neither select the persons who shall be blessed, nor fix the time, the manner or the degree in which any shall receive a blessing: but, as stewards of the mysteries of God, they dispense the bread of life, assuredly expecting, that their Divine Master will give a salutary effect to the ordinances of his own appointment. The direction in the text was confirmed with an express promise, that what they spake on earth should be ratified in heaven: and every faithful minister may take encouragement from it in the discharge of his own duty, and may consider God as saying to him, Bless thou the congregation, “and I will bless them [Note: To this effect, see Luke 10:5-6 and John 20:23.].”]

2. To claim the people as God’s property—

[To “put the name of God upon them” is, to challenge them as “his portion, the lot of his inheritance [Note: Deuteronomy 32:9.].” This every minister must do in most authoritative terms; and not only claim them as his property, but excite them with all earnestness to surrender up themselves to his service. Nor shall their exhortations be lost; for God will accompany them “with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven;” and the people, constrained by a divine impulse, shall say, “I am the Lord’s [Note: Isaiah 44:3-5.].” Moreover, in their intercessions for the people, they are also to urge this plea with God on their behalf [Note: Daniel 9:17-19; Jeremiah 14:9.]. Thus are they to strengthen the connexion between God and them; and to promote that fellowship with God, which is the end, as well as means, of all spiritual communications.]

Having thus explained the general import of the words, we shall,

II. Notice some truths contained in them—

Amidst the many profitable observations that may be deduced from the text, there are some deserving of peculiar attention:

1. The priests under the law, while they blessed the people, typically represented the office of Christ himself—

[Christ as our High-Priest performs every part of the priestly office: and it is remarkable that he was in the very act of blessing his disciples, when he was taken up from them into heaven [Note: Luke 24:50-51.]. Nor did he then cease, but rather began, as it were, to execute that office, which he has been fulfilling from that time to the present hour. St. Peter, preaching afterwards to a vast concourse of people, declared to them, that to bless them was the great end for which Jesus had ascended, and that he was ready, both as a Prince and a Saviour, to give them repentance and remission of sins [Note: Acts 3:26; Acts 5:31.]. Let us then conceive the Lord Jesus standing now in the midst of us, and, with uplifted hands, pronouncing the benediction in the text; is there one amongst us that would not cordially add, “Amen, Amen?” Nor let this be thought a vain and fanciful idea, since he has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, and that too, for the very purpose which is here expressed [Note: Compare Matthew 18:20 with Exodus 20:24.].]

2. Though ministers are used as instruments to convey blessings, God himself is the only author and giver of them—

[The very words, which the priests were commanded to use, directed the attention of all to God himself; nor could the frequent repetition of Jehovah’s name fail to impress the most careless auditor with a conviction, that the blessing could come from God alone. Perhaps too the mystery of the Holy Trinity might be intimated in these expressions [Note: See Bishop Patrick on the place.]; since it is certain that we, under the clearer light of the Gospel, are taught to look to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as the distinct, though united, authors of all spiritual good [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:14.]. We ought indeed to reverence God’s ministers as the authorized dispensers of his blessings [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:13.]; but we must look for the blessings themselves to God alone; and endeavour to exercise faith on the Father as the fountain of them, on Christ as the channel in which they flow, and on the Holy Spirit as the agent, by whose divine energy they are imparted to the soul [Note: Revelation 1:4-5.]. At the same time we should remember the obligation which these mercies lay us under to devote ourselves entirely to the service of our gracious and adorable Benefactor.]

3. However weak the ordinances be in themselves, yet shall they, if attended in faith, be available for our greatest good—

[Nothing can be conceived more simple in itself than a priestly benediction: yet, most undoubtedly, it brought down many blessings upon the people. And can we suppose that God will put less honour upon his ordinances under the Gospel dispensation? Shall not “grace, mercy and peace, flow down from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” in answer to the fervent intercessions of his ministers [Note: 2 Timothy 1:2. These three words seem to contain all that is implied in the text.]? Though ministers be but earthen vessels, yet shall they impart unto the people the richest treasures [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:7.]. Their word shall not be in vain, but shall accomplish God’s good pleasure, and prosper in the thing whereunto he has sent it [Note: Isaiah 55:10-11.]. Let not then the benediction be so often slighted, as though it were only a signal to depart: but while it is delivered with solemnity in the name of God, let every heart be expanded to receive the benefit. Let every one consider himself in particular as the person addressed [Note: “Thee” was repeated six times, though addressed to the whole congregation, that every person might feel himself as much interested as if he alone were present. See the text.]; and may the experience of all attest at this time, that God is ready to “grant us above all that we can ask or think.”]


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Numbers 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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